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Boags, Bears and Mooses (Meeses?)

Jim Hill

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Boags, Bears and Mooses (Meeses?)

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Hey, gang.

Jim Hill again. It's genuinely nice to see that yesterday's story went over so well with most of you folks. (By the way, Michelle and I actually think that we've come up with a semi-clever name for that proposed "Ask Jim" column. How would you folks feel about calling the thing "Why for?" We're also talking about rolling out that column as a regular feature for the site starting on next Friday. So - if you've got any Disney and/or theme park related questions you'd like to see answered in the trademark long winded Jim Hill style - feel free to start tossing them my way. Anywho ... )

Of course, not everyone seemed to enjoy yesterday's column. I actually got a lot of mail from readers today saying "Did you see WallyBoag's response to your article over on the JimHillMedia.com discussion boards? What do you intend to do about that?"

Well, based on people's concerns, I went over and read Mr. Boag's note. Now here's what I intend to do about it: Nothing.

Okay, so a regular reader disagrees strongly with something that I've written at the site. Big deal. It's a free country and Wally's entitled to his own opinion. Maybe Mr. Boag came on a little too strong for some of you folks. But not for me.

You see, one of the things that we're really trying to do differently here at JimHillMedia.com is have no-holds-barred discussion boards. Where people will actually be allowed to disagree. With me. With Michelle. With Jon. With whomever they like.

So - no - we're not going to censor or admin Mr. Boag. Far from it. I actually sort of like it when I have strong, vocal critics like Wally. Why? Because he's the sort of person who really keeps me on my toes. Writing at the top of my game. Knowing that people like Boag are out there - eyeballing every column, anxious to leap on every single mistake - makes me make sure to dot every "i" & cross every "t."

Of course, the other reason that I like people like WallyBoag is that - sometimes (more often than not) - opinionated folks like him turn out to be pretty good sources for inside information on the Walt Disney Company.

Strange but true, folks. But whenever someone sends me an e-mail that says something like "Jim Hill, you moron. You don't know what the hell you're talking about," my ears will perk up. Why for? Because - occasionally - someone who will take the time to write a nasty note like that actually does know what's really going on inside the Mouse House. Which is why I always make a point of sending along a note of apology. I then ask these folks to explain what it was exactly that I supposedly got wrong in my article. The rest ... is easy.

So - no - JimHillMedia.com is NOT going to shut down WallyBoag just because he dares to disagree with me. Why? Because we've got bigger things to worry about here. Things like echoes.

What's an echo? Well, in web parlance, an echo is a piece of bad information that gets repeated so quickly and so often as it travels around the internet that people start to confuse this item for legitimate information.

Take - for instance - all of the confusion that currently surrounds Disney's "Moments."

You know about "Moments," don't you? A few weeks ago, this rumor swept around the Web that Walt Disney Feature Animation had decided to change the name of its still-in-production "Bears" movie. And what was supposedly the new name of this feature? "Moments."

This story - as I understand it - was initially reported by a usually reliable individual who had recently been taken on a tour of Disney's Feature Animation facility in Burbank, CA. As this person visited the third floor of that building, they supposedly came upon a big "Bears" display that featured finished artwork from the movie as well as its alleged new title: "Moments."

So this reportedly reputable source went home and promptly posted this interesting new factoid up on the Web. And - within hours - news of this supposed title change had traveled all over the Net. Which is why everyone now knows that "Bears"'s new name is "Moments." I mean, it has to be, doesn't it? After all, every movie news website quickly grabbed this info and ran it - no questions asked - like it was the gospel truth. So it has to be true ... Right?

The only problem is ... it isn't. This information is totally wrong. Sure, the person who toured the WDFA building in Burbank DID actually see a "Bears" display board. And that display board did feature a sign that read "Moments."

But what this person actually saw was a "Bears"display board that was assembled by that film's producer, Chuck Williams. Williams put this animation art exhibit together so that the folks in Feature Animation Burbank would be familiar with what the people in Feature Animation Florida were up. This display revealed some of the key plot points for the project. The big memorable moments of the movie ... if you will. Which is why this "Bears" display board had a label that said "Moments" stuck to it.

Okay. So - now that I've explained what actually happened - it's easy to understand how this reportedly reputable source could have gotten confused about the alleged new title for the "Bears" project might be, right? But here's the really wild part ... Disney's doing absolutely nothing to alleviate this confusion on the Net.

Why for? Well, first of all, the folks at Feature Animation find this whole "Bears" hoax to be pretty damned funny. Which is why - as soon as these animators read the stories on the Web - they quickly created bogus posters and faux screen savers that hyped WDFA's next big picture: "Moments."

But over in the Team Disney building ... The suits were actually kind of relieved to have this pseudo-smoke screen suddenly pop into place. Why for? Because - even though this film has been in active production for over two years now - Disney execs still can't come up with an official title for the project.

What's the hold-up? Well, the title that Disney originally wanted to use - "Brother Bear" - isn't currently available. Why? Because Stan & Jan Berenstain - the folks who write the "Berenstain Bears" books - have already copywritten & trademarked the name "Brother Bear." So - if Disney really wants to use this title for their film - they're going to end up paying Stan & Jan big bucks for the privilege.

Given that Disney's not really in a spending mood these days, that's why the folks at Feature Animation are under orders to come up with another title for their "Bears" project. At last check, they have at least eight different titles under consideration for this made-mostly-in-Florida film. And none of these proposed titles - NONE OF THEM - features the word "Moments."

Okay, now that we've cleared up one stupid rumor surrounding Disney's "Bears" project ... Let's see if we can't reveal a bit more about the movie. Earlier this week, a screening of the work-in-progress film was held in the Burbank lot. What made this screening particularly significant was that it was one of the first to feature the movie's new Grizz-free storyline.

"Grizz free"? That's right. The movie's mentor character - the one that was supposed to be voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan of "The Green Mile" fame - has supposedly been cut out of the picture. So does this mean that the film's man-who-becomes-a-bear character, Kenoia (with Joaquin Phoenix of "Signs" reportedly doing his vocals) will be going it alone in the woods?

Not exactly. Studio insiders who had seen earlier versions of the movie complained that "Bears" lacked humor. Which is why - earlier this year - the folks in Florida decided to fold a few new comic characters into the mix.

What sort of comic characters? Well, as fans of Bullwinkle will tell you, there's nothing funnier looking than a moose. Or - in this case - two mooses. ("Moose"? "Meese"? What is the appropriate plural in this situation?)

Anyway ... Disney's story team struggled to find a proper hook for these two new "Bears" characters. What sort of moose would they be? What were their attitudes? How would they interact with Kenoia?

It was tough going for a while there ... until one story artist asked the fateful question: "Could they be Canadian moose?"

And - with that - the pieces quickly fell into place. Disney gave Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis a quick call and asked them how they'd feel about voicing Rutt & Tuke, two Canadian moose who sound an awful lot like "SCTV"'s signature characters, Doug & Bob McKenzie. Dave & Rick immediately sparked the idea ...

And the rest ... you'll have to wait come the Fall of 2004, when "Bears" (or whatever the hell Disney ends up calling this film) finally turns up at a theater near you.

Okay. That's enough toon talk for today. Here's hoping that I'm able to cobble something semi-coherent for you folks to read tomorrow.

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